Genes may play a key role in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries among female athletes, according to study results. A news release issued by The University of Akron reports that William Landis, PhD, G. Stafford Whitby Chair in Polymer Science at The University of Akron, and Kerwyn Jones, MD, chair of pediatric orthopedics for Akron Children’s Hospital, have bee investigating the gap in ACL occurrence among young female and male athletes for years.

After exploring potential causes such as hormones and the gait of women compared to men, Landis notes in the release that the researchers wondered about “the influence of genes and how they might affect the structure or integrity of these ligaments.”

During the study, Landis and Jones investigated 14 fresh surgical samples of ruptured ligament tissue taken from both female and male athletes who sustained non-contact injuries of the tissues, the release says.

After extensive analysis through gene microarray techniques, Landis notes that the researchers “discovered 32 genes that were expressed to much different degrees in the injured ligaments of females compared with those of males.”

The release notes that of the 32 expressed genes, the researchers closely investigated three that gave rise to specific proteins linked to ligament structure and integrity. The researchers found that all three genes regulated ligament tissue in a different manner in female versus male tissue.

Landis explains that the differences may account for weaker ACLs in females compared to males.

Jones points out that help can be provided to female athletes in order to “strengthen the core and improve their technique. Several exercises and prevention programs have been proven to reduce the number of ACL injuries.”

Jones adds that these exercises and prevention programs should be introduced to all female athletes beginning in middle school.

Landis echoes Jones’ sentiment, noting that “Clinical treatment and training for females and males would likely now need to be modified so that the anterior cruciate ligaments could be strengthened appropriately in order to reduce or avoid injuries to the tissue most common in females.”

Source: The University of Akron